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Kuwaiti girls use martial arts to counter violence

China Daily | Updated: 2019-01-11 09:03

Kuwaiti Asma Hasnawi (left), a Kajukenbo hybrid martial arts assistant-master, practices with her daughter Riham, in a club in Kuwait City on Oct 22. YASSER AL-ZAYYAT/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

KUWAIT CITY - Asma Hasnawi and her daughter Riham spend more than 12 hours a week learning kajukenbo, a hybrid martial art the mother says boosts her child's confidence and thwarts bullying.

In a small hall in Kuwait City, women and girls in black uniforms gather to learn the basics of self-defense.

On their left sleeves are the flags of Kuwait and the US state of Hawaii, where the hybrid martial art of kajukenbo was developed in the 1940s.

The sport's name was derived from the various forms of martial arts it includes: Karate, judo and jujitsu, kenpo and boxing.

Each form teaches techniques that can be used to fend off an attack, says Hasnawi, 33, who participates in the class alongside her 12-year-old daughter and other girls. "I initially wanted to explore this sport, but I continued to practice it to be able to defend myself," she says.

Hasnawi still remembers being bullied as a child - something her daughter has struggled with at school too.

But she says Riham has "changed a lot" since they started practicing kajukenbo, gaining patience and strength through the sport.

"She has transformed. At school, she used to get really angry and quickly agitated if someone would say something to her," Hasnawi says.

"Now, it's something normal that she can (healthily) deal with."

There is no recent data in Kuwait on cases of violence against women, who enjoy more freedoms than those in some neighboring countries.

A 2010 study found that a woman is assaulted every day in Kuwait, according to Ghada al-Ghanem, of the Women's Cultural and Social Society.

The WCSS, whose goal is to help and encourage women's participation in the Kuwaiti community, has dealt with a number of assault cases and Ghanem believes the actual figure may be higher.

Hung on the red and black walls of the Street Warrior Academy is a poster of two men practicing the sport.

"Kajukenbo teaches your child the methods and arts of self-defense," it reads, complimenting the mottos of "strength and honor" and "street warrior" on the backs of the girls' uniforms.

The students closely watch their instructor, Faisal al-Gharib, as he explains how to counter an attack with the help of his son.

The girls then pair up to take what they have learned and put it into practice.

In another instance, the instructor's son mimics an attack with a wooden knife on one of the more experienced pupils, who wears a black belt.

Already familiar with the exercise, the student says: "I pretend that I have surrendered... and then I grab his hand on my neck, push it down and move it away."

More than 120 girls and women between the ages of four and 50 participate in the academy's different kajukenbo classes, which are held in a room with training weapons lining its walls.

Nearly 40 men and boys also currently take part in kajukenbo classes at the club on different days from the women.

Agence France-presse

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